Fall is here. I realize that the first official day isn’t until the equinox on Saturday, but I have worn long sleeves to work now and taken a shawl outside of my ice-box of an office. Fall has come biting through the unprepared September air, a playful hound delighting in the click of its own teeth and the power of freed jaws. I rejoice in breaking out the sweaters, the hot chocolate, the dreams that one day I will own a house with a fireplace, real wood cracking in the ever-earlier darkness.
Seasonal change delights my inner poet.
But with fall still comes school, and my students and I have survived the first few weeks only to realize that the meat of it is yet to come, that this is still a marathon at a sprint’s pace, that Christmas’s salvation is a long way off. Next week is going to be very difficult, as a lot of things not yet occurring will kick in with a vengeance at two of my jobs and in my classrooms. And I’m still working through my frustration with church—in the effort to spend less time there, I have quite accidentally spent hours at other churches, at my own for different and somewhat painful reasons, pacing the ground that won’t let me go…that I can’t release.
So my solution to having so very much to do and so little time is, of course, to leave. A dear friend of mine from college has extended the offer to visit with her and escape to our favorite renaissance festival, a wonderful oasis of accepting absurdity where there are no rules except laughter. She and I will talk about all things, as we do for this once-a-year reunion, and perhaps another friend of mine will join us to remember who we were together and take stock of who we have become. She will not ask me if I’m dating or whether I have my career figured out, and I will not ask her if she and her husband have spoken of children or if she’s going to stay near her hometown for always. I love this friendship because it is a place we both go when we are tired of the expectations of others; from the beginning, we have shared our frustrations with each other, accepting that we are very different people who cross paths in the oddest of places.
How I need this, this physical distance from all that life here is about to become, from the recurring arguments I am having with the places God and I expect me to be—not always the same, by a long shot. It has been a long and draining week on a number of levels, and next week will be more so in different ways. It is mine to see the example—the imperative—to leave for a while, however brief; to recharge with someone who lets me be, in a place that does not know me but delights in my willingness to play along.
There are many medievalists who abhor the idea of attending a renaissance festival, partly because those are often confused with what we do for a living—no, I am not earning a degree in jousting, and no, I do not eat turkey legs all the time. (Which, incidentally, are totally false, as the turkey is an American bird unknown in the Middle Ages. Also, I will confess to owning a wench outfit, but that was before I started my studies.) I understand their frustration, but there’s something about the come-as-you-are concept of ren faires that delights me, the acceptance that you can be an accountant out there, but here you are a powerful wizard and no, you don’t look silly at all with a fake beard or a totally anachronistic robe.
I am renewing my spirit with the things and the people who make me laugh, the belly-deep chortle that startles many but is recognizable across auditoriums, the guffaw that I despair of ever getting rid of but delight in having as an unrestrained expression of mirth. I will need to hold on to that memory of laughter in the coming weeks, as school leans heavily, work demands more, church dances endlessly around my own moments of centeredness, the pressing need to acknowledge certain parts of my life becomes an impasse I can’t ignore. Being apart is also God’s gift, as He Himself understands weariness and this need to recharge. Can I be more than He? Would I like even to try?
May you breathe deep the gathering chill, Reader, and delight in its reminder that this moves forward, that all things have their season, that the stillness and the movement both need their say in the balance of things. I wish you a good fall, and the ability to see the moments of restoration in your own life this weekend.
Upon receiving these tidings, Jesus went away by boat to an uninhabited and secluded district; but the people heard of it and followed Him in crowds from the towns by land. So Jesus went out and saw an immense multitude, and felt compassion for them, and cured those of them who were out of health. (Matthew 14:13-14, WNT)